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Samayasara - by Acharya Kundakunda: Conditions For The Influx Of Karma—ĀŚRAVA And Its Opposite—SAṂVARA

Published: 20.07.2010
Updated: 02.07.2015

Rebirth and Karma are the two most important presuppositions of Jain philosophy. Development of these conceptions was accompanied by that of corresponding metaphysics also. The soulJῙVAis the conscious substance. In its purest state it possesses a number of qualities/attributes which are obstructed, obscured and distorted by its infection by another substance, matterPudgala. The subtlemost class of matter, appropriately called karmic matter, is capable of mixing with the soul much in the same way as water mixes with milk. This union of soul and matter is called Bondage (Bandha). In the pure and perfect state, the soul has infinite knowledge, intuition, bliss and spiritual energy as well as freedom from embodied existence, delimited longevity (life-span), and difference of status. Its characteristic quality is consciousness (upayoga)a complex of two cognitive facultiesknowledge and intuition. Thus, the soul (jῑva) and consciousness (upayoga) are eternally coextensive and inalienable.

The bondage of soul with karmic matter obscures and obstructs the pure qualities of the soul and keeps it in the embodiedworldlystate. However, belief in the intrinsic purity of the soul and its capability to regain its essentially pure nature-which is the same thing as the discovery of its infinite gloryis basic to the doctrine of karma.

The question why the pure soul should come to be infested with the impurity of matter is one of fact as ultimate as its own real existence and it is unnecessary to question the possibility of a fact. It is there. The important thing is that the impurity and imperfection can be transcended by self-realization or emancipation.

The embodied [worldly] state is sustained and nourished from eternity, basically by the delusion and perversity of the soul due to its defilement by delusion-producing (mohanῑya) karma. It lasts as long as the delusion lasts. This karma deludes the soul by luring its interest in the world processes and making it cling to it as the source of happiness, this results in the cycle of rebirths. Thus, the primordial cause of worldly existence is called Mithyātva that is perversity. It is, as a rule, accompanied with Passions (kaṣāya) of the most virulent type [as we shall presently see]. The modus operandi of the perversity and passions is to produce conditions which attract inflow of karmic matter and lead to its bondage with the soul. The inflow of karmic matter and psychic conditions leading to it is influxĀśrava.

Thus, the term Āśrava means a condition which causes the inflow of karmic matter in the soul. It can be conceived as an opening through which the impurity enters the soul. Inclusive of Mithyātva there are five āśrava which can be graphically depicted as five openings progressively diminishing in size, mithyātva being the largest and Yoga the smallest.

Five āśravas are:

  1. mithyātva (perverted attitude),
  2. avirati (non-abstinence),
  3. pramāda (spiritual inertia),
  4. kaṣāya (passions) and
  5. yoga (activities).

Though the worldly state of existence is due to the joint effect of all the five, it is not difficult to see that the smaller opening has little significance so long as a larger one is wide open permitting the inflow of karmic impurity.

Mithyātvaperverted faith/world-viewdefiles, as it were, the very texture of the soul and it is but natural that all the functions of the soul should be perverted. Purification of the attitude by blocking the influx through the largest gateway of mithyātva is, therefore, the sine quâ non of the purification of the other functions. Each opening would need separate effort for closing and the succeeding one is not necessarily closed on closing the preceding one. The closing of the preceding one is, however, essential for effectively closing the succeeding one. Before proceeding to discuss saṃvara let us clarify the relation of passions (kaṣāya) with other āśravas.

Passions are essentially psychological distortions, i.e., distortions of psychic equanimity. The four passions—anger, arrogance, deceit, and greed—are again each of four types. Virulent type of passions are called Anantānubandhῑ, which means leading to infinite bondage. This type is coeval with perversity (mithyātva) and is therefore beginningless. Some what less virulent type is called Apratyākhyānavaraṇa and still less virulent is called Pratyākhyānavaraṇa. The fourth type is the least virulent and is called Sañjvalana. While perverted world-view is the fruition of one branch—darśana-mohanῑya—of deluding (mohanῑya) karma, passions are fruitions of the other branch—cāritra-mohanῑya. Thus, though they are not identical, obey are intimately interconnected. As stated, mithyātva and anantānubandhῑ passions are coeval. The next two types are associated with non-abstinence.


The purified state of the soul which is competent to close the gates of āśrava and block the influx is called Saṃvara. Saṃvara is thus antithetic to āśrava. That is it can be conceived as a butter to close the opening and block the influx of impurity.

Thus, the number of Saṃvara is also five:



Perverted attitude (mithyātva)

Right attitude (samyaktva)

Non-abstinence (avirati)

Abstinence (virati)

Spiritual inertia (pramāda)

Spiritual alertness (apramāda)

Passions (kaṣāya)

Freedom from passions (akaṣāya)

Activities (yoga)

Motionlessness (ayoga)

It has already been clarified that unless the widest opening mithyātva is blocked first by samyaktva, the blocking of the smaller ones is futile. The Herculean effort to destroy or at least suppress the root of all evils from eternity, needs an unprecedented spiritual effort. And hence the spiritual success in the form of attaining enlightenment has been assigned the highest value.

However, even after this most difficult task is achieved, the soul has to strive further to block the other openings one by one. After the dawn of enlightenment self-restraint and self-discipline are the important next steps in spiritual advancement. Enlightenment i.e., right attitude and right knowledge must be followed by the right conduct which means discipline of the will. The disciplined will is rather the logical condition of the disciplined reason and one finds its fulfillment in the other; without this fulfillment the mere intellectual culture is cripple and mere moral culture implied by the discipline of the will without intellectual illumination is blind.

For the final freedom/emancipation the fivefold āśrava must be blocked by the fivefold saṃvara. In other words, after destroying the evilmost impurity in the form of perversity, the soul must tread the path of right conduct and acquire further strength for complete abstinence from immoral and sinful deeds. The spiritual inertia must be overcome next. It must, then, become free from the rise of all the four types of passions, and finally, it should acquire the state of total motionlessness.

The most significant feature of enlightenment is the ability to distinguish between the self and non-self. Ultimately the consciousness (upayoga) alone is to be identified with the self while the passions, quasi-passions, and all other distortions which are the outcome of the rise of karma, are to be regarded as non-self.


Samayasara - by Acharya Kundakunda Publishers:
Jain Vishva Bharati University First Edition: 2009

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Page glossary
Some texts contain  footnotes  and  glossary  entries. To distinguish between them, the links have different colors.
  1. Akaṣāya
  2. Apramāda
  3. Avirati
  4. Bandha
  5. Consciousness
  6. Deceit
  7. Discipline
  8. Equanimity
  9. Greed
  10. Jain Philosophy
  11. JῙVA
  12. Karma
  13. Karmic matter
  14. Kaṣāya
  15. Mithyātva
  16. Pramāda
  17. Samyaktva
  18. Saṃvara
  19. Soul
  20. Upayoga
  21. Yoga
  22. Āśrava
  23. āśrava
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